As in years past, politicians are calling on Malaysians to fly the flag and attend mass gatherings to celebrate the anniversary of the nation's independence, as if they are the only ones who know the true meaning of Merdeka.

Savvy business people are cashing in by organising festivities in the name of Merdeka for those who can afford to pay for expensive food, drink and performances.

For most Malaysians, the public holiday is a time for a quiet break from the ruthless process of capital accumulation, for longer hours of sleep, and to catch up with family or even settle down for a good read.

One book worth reading is 'Merdeka! British Rule & the Struggle for Independence in Malaya, 1945-1957', by Dr Khong Kim Hoong (Kuala Lumpur, SIRD, 2003).

It offers a more sophisticated account of how independence was gained from the British, compared to the official account which acclaims the peaceful transfer of power through the political, diplomatic and negotiating skills of Umno, MCA and MIC leaders.

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